Andy Murray cruised into the quarter-finals at the Sony Open with a convincing straight sets victory over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
The defending champion looked impressive from the off but had a scare when he called for the trainer in the first set although he still closed out after breaking Tsonga early.
The second set was a straightforward affair as Murray eased to a 6-4, 6-1 victory and set up a meeting in the next round with Novak Djokovic.
Murray broke Tsonga in just the third game and was playing some impressive stuff as he moved into an early 3-1 lead before he appeared to run into trouble in the fifth. The Scot had five break points but lost the game and appeared to be in some discomfort.
The next two games went with serve before the Wimbledon champion called for assistance and, although he spoke with the trainer, he did not have any treatment and when the action resumed the remainder of the set also went with serve.
In a repeat of the first set, Tsonga was again broken in the third game and Murray showed no signs of his earlier problems as he largely dominated proceedings with his forehand.
That domination continued as Murray won all the remaining games, at one point taking 14 points in a row, and eased his way into the last eight.
Murray was pleased with his performance and felt that the key to the win was taking his opponent out of his comfort zone.
“I served well, I didn’t give him any opportunities on my serve at all, and then as soon as the ball was short I attacked him,” he said. “I came forward, I kept him away from the net which is where he likes to be. That’s when he plays his best tennis, when he’s the one coming forward, so I kept him pushed back on the baseline.
“I made very few unforced errors and it was a good match.”
The quarter-final against Djokovic will be the first time the two men have met since the Wimbledon final and Murray feels he is getting to his best form at the right time.
“I’m looking forward to it, it’s a great test for me,” he added.
“I think my game is kind of close to where I want it to be right now and he’s obviously playing very good tennis again, winning last week and he’s been pretty comfortable so far here.
“It’s always a fun match up against him and we’ve played here a few times so it’ll be another tough one.”
Murray also confirmed he will speak to his medical staff about the discomfort in the first set, although he does not believe it held him back. “I’m not sure, I haven’t had it assessed yet so I’ll go and see my physio when I get off the court, have a chat about it, and see what the problem is,” he added.
“I was still moving well, it was just painful. I thought I moved pretty well and loosened up as it went on.”
Djokovic, aiming for a fourth Miami title, eased past Spaniard Tommy Robredo 6-3, 7-5. Japan’s Kei Nishikori also reached the last eight by pulling off the first major upset of the tournament, toppling fourth-seeded Spaniard David Ferrer 7-6 (9-7), 2-6, 7-6 (11-9). Djokovic had only two break points in his match and that was all he needed, converting both.
In the women’s tournament five-time runner-up Maria Sharapova closed in on a return to the Miami final by taming eighth-seeded Czech Petra Kvitova 7-5, 6-1 to reach the semi-finals.
Meanwhile, James Ward and Dan Evans are vying for the second singles spot alongside Murray in the Great Britain team for next week’s Davis Cup quarter-final against Italy in Naples.
Ross Hutchins has recovered from cancer to be named as a reserve for Britain’s first Davis Cup quarter-final in 28 years, but the intrigue prior to the 4-6 April contest now concerns whether Ward or Evans will be given the nod in the singles.
Colin Fleming is poised to combine with two-time grand slam champion and fellow Scot Murray in the doubles after being selected ahead of Dom Inglot in the squad named by captain Leon Smith, who has a decision to make in the singles. Does he stick with Ward, who beat Sam Querrey in San Diego in February in the 3-1 defeat of the United States, or go with Evans?
Italy have selected singles specialists Fabio Fognini and Andreas Seppi, who stand 14th and 33rd respectively in the world rankings, alongside Simone Bolelli and Paolo Lorenzi.